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Susan R. Hatten Headshot

Vibrancy in an Unknown Place

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As you can see from my blogger profile, I'm writing from the heartland of America; the great State of Iowa. No, we're not the potato state. We're also different than Ohio, and -- contrary to popular belief, not all of us caravan to work on combines or tractors.

Many know of Iowa as the curator of the political pulse, with our thriving Caucus' and "first in the nation" polling status. With the elections now at a close, we must find new ways to emerge into headlines.

I recently had the honor of sitting in on a brand ambassador workshop put on by our Greater Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau. This organization (known as the GDMCVB), has been working tirelessly for more than one year on a brand review for our community.

The discovery process for the Greater Des Moines community brand involved engagement of focus groups, interviews with key business leaders, out-of-state organizational decision-makers, and many more. The cross-section took a pulse from a wide range of ages, demographics and interest levels.

When someone mentions the Midwestern USA, what immediately comes to mind for you? Is it "welcoming", "friendly", "charming"... or noun of the like? Our findings uncovered an overuse of harsh nomenclatures which ultimately were providing our community -- and our State, a disservice.

While one of our local grocer's tagline's truly is: "A Helpful Smile in Every Aisle" -- this is not what attracts folks from near and far to visit our hidden jewel. There is truth to the core messaging here.

When you make the decision to travel abroad, or even domestically, I doubt that you predicate your travel destination to carve out only the cities that have "friendly" demeanor, or a "quaint and welcoming charm." You're looking for culture, vibrancy, action and history. To want to appease your palette with flavors and fusion, which you can't find in your own locale.

Of those surveyed initially who did find an attraction to our Greater Des Moines community, the words vibe and artful energy, kept appearing. Were we missing something? Was there a cultural revolution taking place before our very eyes that we had not captured in our own community brand? As it turns out; yes.

While Ashton Kutcher's brand-association through his notorious John Deere green ball-cap at least put us on the map and in the US!Weekly tabloid spread -- we longed for more. Between 2011 and 2012, Greater Des Moines received rave reviews from the likes of Forbes Magazine, Wine Spectator Magazine, and several of our community leaders found themselves on the "Top Business Leaders" national list. This was certainly nothing to balk at, but we needed to own it.

Our centrally based community has truly evolved over the past several years -- and at a very rapid pace. So rapid, in fact, that we had not taken the time to catch up with our very own changes. We had not embraced them enough to understand how to market them.

Data doesn't lie, and it was now our turn to creatively illustrate our value through our own vibrance. The former slogan for Greater Des Moines had been, "See Des Moines," which conveyed a window-shopping mentality. Any community who understands the creation of affinity through economic impact knows that you wish your target market to do much more than window-shop; you want them to open the door, walk in, and to explore.

As of November 13, 2012, the Greater Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau changed their tag to; "Catch Des Moines."

Once I heard the news, I immediately thought of the many meanings of the word "catch" -- and how this new-found slogan could offer a chameleon-like appeal to visitors, guests and navigators. If you peruse the many meanings of "catch" within Wikipedia's Wiktionary, you'll find coverage abounding in an array -- and the use of catch as both a noun and a verb. Allowing the recipient of the message to interpret "catch" in their own way offers a certain mystique and wonder behind the phrase. It makes folks want to open the door -- as opposed to peering inside the window from the curb.

"Catch Des Moines" gives our community a more vibrant voice, and to own what we have been crafting and coddling for all of these years. Through the diligence and hard work of many, our greater city has now earned the right to be "caught" -- rather than merely seen. Perhaps you will allow yourself to catch the Des Moines vibe, too.